There are three main types of cannibalism. One is the “I’m starving to death and need to eat another human’s dead body in order to survive” type and the another is the “I’m a deranged psychotic with a taste for human flesh” type. Of course there’s also ritualistic cannibalism which functions in a kind of religious way as well. Below we explore all three of these and why not, human history is absolutely full of instances of cannibalism. I’ll also try to avoid the instances everyone knows about such as Jeffrey Dahmer and other infamous cannibalizing serial killers.
Long known for being a bastion of cruel and inhuman insanity, two Mexican drug cartels took their need to be macho even further by requiring new initiates to eat human hearts in order to prove their loyalty. The strategy on the part of La Familia Michoacana and the Knights Templar cartels is designed to weed out those disloyal to the groups.
No word on where the cartels are getting the hearts but I’m betting it’s a “blood of your enemies” type thing.
In a truly disturbing case last year in Wales, Matthew Williams met 22-year-old Cerys Yemm in a bar and then asked her back to his hotel room. She agreed but once there Williams attacked and killed her and then ate portions of her face and one of her eyes. Police who were called to the scene tried to detain Williams but ended up having to use force including a taser. Williams died not long after being taken into custody.
Williams had been released from prison for violently attacking his ex-girlfriend only a month prior to committing the horrific attack against Yemm.
Thirty three year old Indiana man, Joseph Oberhansley is a special kind of monster. In 1998, when he was 17-years-old he was convicted of manslaughter and attempted murder in the killing of his girlfriend at the time and the shooting of his mother. For those deeds he served fourteen years before being released back into society.
In 2014, after his live in girlfriend Tammy Blanton changed the locks he allegedly broke into her apartment and stabbed her to death with a pocket knife. After murdering her he cooked parts of her body and ate them including using a jigsaw to cut open her skull in order to eat her brains.
In 2013, Italian man Lino Renzi was arrested after it was discovered that he had killed his elderly mother and had been eating her for an unknown amount of time. Renzi had a long history of mental problems and had killed his mother after the two had an argument in the home they shared together. Parts of his mother were found boiling, in the oven, in the freezer, and in the bathroom.
Renzi had been released a month prior to committing the atrocity and prescription drugs were found on the scene.
Africa’s Democratic Republic of Congo has long suffered from civil war and conflict between Christians, Animists, and Muslims. In 2014, a man believed to be a part of a Muslim group who had committed a massacre of nearly 100 people was set upon by a crowd in northern Congo and they proceeded to stone and beat him to death.
Once the man was dead, the crowd set him on fire and ate portions of his corpse.
Initially believed to be under the influence of bath salts, in 2012 Rudy Eugene carried out an insane attack against 68-year-old Ronald Poppo, a homeless Miami man. Caught on camera, the eighteen minute attack consisted of Eugene ranting against Poppo, accusing him of “stealing his Bible” before he beat Poppo unconscious and bit off most of his face, leaving him blind. Eugene became known as the “Miami Zombie” after the press released the details of the attack.
When police arrived on the scene, Eugene was still carrying out his attack on Poppo and reportedly simply growled at officers when they told him to stop. Eugene was then shot four times before he desisted his attack. Eugene died on the scene.
During Eugene’s autopsy, police found that he had cannabis in his system as well as several pills in his stomach that they were unable to identify.
Legal in Japan, self described asexual, artist Mao Sugiyama decided to have his genitals removed in 2012 and serve them as a dish for a mere 100,000 yen (855 in today’s U.S. dollars) as a way to show that he did not affiliate with any gender.
Five diners later sat down and ate Sugiyama’s genitals which were served with “button mushrooms and Italian parsley.” Long deleted, here’s how Sugiyama’s original tweet offering up his genitals read.
“[Please retweet] I am offering my male genitals (full penis, testes, scrotum) as a meal for 100,000 yen …Will prepare and cook as the buyer requests, at his chosen location.”
8. Skull Caps
Lest you get the impression that cannibalism is a modern era phenomenon, think again. Evidence from dig sites dating back circa 12,000 years ago indicate that the residents at the time were very familiar with cannibalism and were even practiced at it, making cups from the tops of their victim’s skulls after scraping out the brains.
Results of the research suggest the processing of cadavers for the consumption of body tissues (bone marrow), accompanied by meticulous shaping of cranial vaults. The distribution of cut-marks and percussion features indicates that the skulls were scrupulously ‘cleaned’ of any soft tissues, and subsequently modified by controlled removal of the facial region and breakage of the cranial base along a sub-horizontal plane. The vaults were also ‘retouched’, possibly to make the broken edges more regular. This manipulation suggests the shaping of skulls to produce skull-cups.
Whether the people that committed these acts did so because they were desperate or whether “man” was just another item on their regular menu is unknown.
In another case of ancient cannibalism, the 50,000 year old remains of an entire Neanderthal family of 12 was found in a Spanish cave along with evidence that all had been butchered like beef cattle for eating.
During the first Crusade in 1098, upon defeating a Muslim army by laying siege Syrian city Ma’arra, the crusaders were then reported to have eaten the men they had defeated. Whether this was out of hungry desperation isn’t known but there is also evidence that they may have been ordered to do so in order to ensure that their later foes would be scared to death of them.
When news got back to Europe that this had happened the people of the time were just as disturbed by it as we would be today especially given the supposedly “holy mission” aspect of the Crusades concept.
In 1763, Ottowa native american chief Potomac and members of several other tribes laid siege to Fort Detroit in order to kill all the 120 British soldiers present at the time and drive the British presence back.
During the siege, Potomac’s forces killed several soldiers and civilians outside the Fort and ritualistically cannibalized at least one of the soldiers. Six months later, the siege a failure, Potomac withdrew his forces. Here’s the account of one British soldier who was taken hostage by Potomac. The cannibalism was, it seems, an uproarious affair.
11. The Child Eater
Known as the Ruhr Cannibal and Duisburg Man-Eater, German serial killer Joachim Georg Kroll lived from 1933-1991 and during that time he raped and killed fourteen people while eating parts of at least three of them. Kroll’s victims were almost exclusively women and nine of them were under the age of 16. Three were under the age of ten.
Upon his arrest he was convicted of eight murders but while in prison confessed to more. Having an IQ of only 76, Kroll didn’t begin killing until after his mother died and was, by all accounts, had been a skinny and weak child who notoriously wet his bed.
Kroll was extremely screwed up. He didn’t rape his victims until after they were already dead and confessed to also engaging in masturbation with a rubber sex doll upon returning home from from his crimes. Kroll eventually captured and sentenced to life in prison which is where he died from a heart attack in 1991.
In 1981, Japanese Sorbonne literature student, Issei Sagawa murdered fellow student Renée Hartevelt, a Dutch girl, while the two were studying at his Paris apartment, raped her corpse, and cannibalized her body for two days. Freezing some of her remains, he was later caught while trying to dump other parts of her in a lake which is where police saw and caught him.
When asked why he did it, Sagawa said that he chose Hartevelt because she was tall and beautiful. Sagawa himself was under five feet tall and believed himself to be ugly. Initially committed to a mental institution, Sagawa was later deported to Japan and because of a series of administrative screwups was allowed to go free in 1986 after psychologists declared him sane, stating that sexual perversion had caused him to commit the murder.
Weirdly, Sagawa became sort of famous from all this for a number of years and made money from speaking fees, public appearances, books and even restaurant reviews. Here’s a section from an interview he gave with Vice in 2009.
This must sound rich coming from me, but the moment the girl became a corpse, I realized that I had lost an important friend and even regretted killing her for a moment. What I truly wished was to eat her living flesh. Nobody believes me, but my ultimate intention was to eat her, not necessarily to kill her. To this day, I still think, “If only she had let me taste her, just a little bit…”
13. The Model
The only female cannibal on this list, Omaima Aree Nelson moved to the U.S. from Egypt in 1986 and met William Nelson when she was 23. Nelson was substantially older at 56 years and was a pilot. The couple married within days of meeting and Omaima claimed that he began to sexually abuse her.
On Thanksgiving Day 1991, she stabbed William in the head with a pair of scissors and then beat him to death with a clothes iron. Afterward, she dismembered his body, boiled his head and hands, and began to mix his remains in with the Christmas turkey as she ran the entire thing through the garbage disposal. She even claimed to have cut out his ribs and cooked and eaten them with BBQ sauce. She also castrated him. Soon after her husband’s disappearance was noticed and she became a suspect.
Omaima also has a history of prior crazy behavior. In 1991, before moving in with William Nelson, she tied up her then boyfriend and demanded money at gunpoint. She has also stated that the reason she cut her husband up was so that she wouldn’t have to meet him in the afterlife “in accordance with Egyptian mythology.”
Omaima is currently still in prison and will be eligible for parole in 2026.
Japanese troops posted in New Guinea received a severe ration cut in December of 1942 that apparently pushed them to cannibalism. Surviving POWs claim that, daily, at least one prisoner was marched out, butchered while still alive, and later served up to Japanese troops on the orders of their superiors. Here’s how one POW described the instances of cannibalism by Japanese troops.
“the Japanese started selecting prisoners and every day one prisoner was taken out and killed and eaten by the soldiers. I personally saw this happen and about 100 prisoners were eaten at this place by the Japanese. The remainder of us were taken to another spot 50 miles (80 kilometres) away where 10 prisoners died of sickness. At this place, the Japanese again started selecting prisoners to eat. Those selected were taken to a hut where their flesh was cut from their bodies while they were alive and they were thrown into a ditch where they later died.”
However, this was not an isolated incident. Instances of cannibalism by the Japanese army were not uncommon outside of New Guinea either.